“Firm, Fair and Funny”: The skills of a teacher

As the former Head Teacher of Centre Academy, a specialist school for children with learning and behaviour issues, I found that many of the new students joining us came with a negative opinion of teachers.  Most viewed them as the enemy – not a person who could support them with learning and behavioural issues.

During the admissions interview I would often ask a student if they had a favourite teacher, to which most responded ‘no’ because ‘they all used to pick on me’. However, after further discussion those pupils would usually admit that there was, in fact, one teacher who was ‘alright’.  They were the ones who        could manage the class and who ensured the kids knew where they stood with them. Often, that teacher could also have a bit of a laugh with the students.

In essence, these pupils were saying that they liked a teacher who could establish boundaries while making the students feel safe and secure.   One who was consistent in how they interpreted situations and could create a positive mood in the classroom. In other words, someone who was Firm, Fair and Funny and who they saw as a leader and a coach.

The Times Educational Supplement interviewed students in a primary school and a secondary school, asking which characteristics they thought were important in being a great teacher. The results were as follows:

Great teachers: Primary   

  1. Funny
  2. Helpful/supportive
  3. Good Listener
  4. Friendly
  5. Fair
  6. Approachable
  7. Kind
  8. Passionate
  9. Inspiring
  • Knowledgeable

Great teachers: Secondary   

  1. Funny
  2. Fair
  3. Understanding
  4. Helpful/supportive
  5. Good Listener
  6. Inspiring
  7. Knowledgeable
  8. Patient
  9. Passionate
  • Fun

TES 27.7.17

It is important to note that teachers are not meant to be entertainers, but they do need to be able to generate a productive and positive mood and have a range of interpersonal skills that can motivate every type of student.

For more tips on teaching and learning please find details of my new book Supporting Behaviour in the Classroom available in November 2020